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Introduction to Wetland Monitoring and Assessment

EGLE has a Michigan Wetlands Monitoring and Assessment Strategy that has the primary goal of evaluating the success of the state in protecting, managing, and restoring Michigan’s wetlands such that they will continue to provide the public benefits defined by the legislature in Part 303, Wetlands Protection, of the NREPA. Assessment and monitoring of Michigan’s wetland resources provides information to address diverse program issues at a variety of scales, from the status and trends of statewide wetland acreage to the detailed evaluation of individual wetland sites. The evaluation of individual wetlands is also a component of Michigan’s regulatory program under Part 303 and Section 404 of the Clean Water Act, which requires annual reporting on statewide regulatory impacts. Land use planners are also increasingly considering wetland functions, wetland quality, and restoration opportunities in watershed scale planning and in local nonpoint source control programs.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has developed a 3-tiered framework for the assessment and monitoring of wetland resources that has been adopted by the department's wetlands program.  Michigan’s Monitoring and Assessment Strategy outlines the following objectives under this 3-tiered framework for monitoring and assessment of Michigan’s wetlands. The objectives speak to the broader goals outlined above, and are consistent with federal goal of determining whether national no net loss and net gain targets for wetlands are being achieved.

Level 1:  Landscape Assessment

Landscape Assessment is the use of GIS and remote sensing to gain a landscape view of watershed and wetland condition.  Typical assessment indicators include wetland coverage (NWI), land use, and land cover.  Applications for Landscape Assessment include:  Status and trends, targeting restoration and monitoring, and landscape condition assessment.

Objective 1: Complete an inventory of Michigan’s wetland resources that provides both basic resource information and a baseline for evaluating gains and losses over time.

Objective 2: In order to support state and national no net loss and net gain goals for wetlands, cooperate in updating of National Wetland Inventory (NWI) maps for use in status and trends reporting.

Objective 3: Assess the effectiveness of Michigan’s state-administered Section 404 Permit Program by tracking authorized wetland impacts and mitigation for those impacts, as well as documented unauthorized impacts and restoration measures.

Objective 4: Apply Landscape Level wetland assessment methods to support the protection, management, and restoration of wetlands on a watershed scale.

Level 2:  Rapid Wetland Assessment

Rapid Wetland Assessment is the evaluation of the general condition of individual wetlands using relatively simple field indicators.  Assessment is often based on the characterization of stressors known to limit wetland functions (e.g., road crossings, tile draining, ditching).  Applications for Rapid Wetland Assessment include assessing a site's functional value, watershed planning, and monitoring.  The department has developed the Michigan Rapid Assessment Method for this purpose.

Objective 5: Evaluate individual wetland sites using the Michigan Rapid Assessment Method (MiRAM), to quickly assess wetland functions and values regardless of ecological type.

Level 3:  Intensive Site Assessment (i.e., Monitoring)

Intensive Site Assessment (i.e., Monitoring) is the production of quantitative data with known certainty on wetland condition within an assessment area, used to refine rapid wetland assessment methods and diagnose the cause of wetland degradation.  Assessment is typically accomplished using IBI's or HGM.  Applications for Intensive Site Assessment include water quality standard development, integrated reporting, and verification of Levels 1 and 2 assessments.

Objective 6: Use full scale biological assessment of wetlands for resource management purposes. Develop and document wetland Indices of Biological Integrity (IBI’s) and related methods.

Objective 7: In cooperation with other public and private agencies and organizations, provide for the evaluation of Michigan’s most outstanding wetland resources, especially Great Lakes coastal wetlands, by supporting the long-term monitoring of coastal wetlands through the Great Lakes Coastal Wetlands Consortium and similar cooperative efforts.

Objective 8: Assess statewide wetland quality by establishing a routine Wetland Monitoring Program that parallels other basin-wide water quality monitoring and includes the National Wetland Condition Assessment (NWCA).